Amazon details new warehouse robots, ‘Ernie’ and ‘Bert’

A package is prepared for shipment at the Amazon warehouse in Hemel Hempstead, England.

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The Amazon warehouse workers could soon be joined by a couple of new co-workers: Ernie and Bert.

Those are the names of the new robots that Amazon is testing with the goal of reducing strenuous movements of workers.

While the introduction of robots in the workplace often raises questions about whether human jobs will be replaced, Amazon argues that they simply allow workers to focus on the tasks that need their attention the most while minimizing their potential for injury. Amazon said it has added more than a million jobs worldwide since it began using robotics at its facilities in 2012.

In May, Amazon announced a goal of reducing recordable incident rates by 50% by 2025. It plans to invest more than $ 300 million in security projects this year.

Amazon described in a blog post Sunday four robots it is testing to move items through its fulfillment centers and closer to workers.

Ernie helps remove items from a robotic shelf so employees don’t have to. The process doesn’t save time, Amazon said in the post, but testing so far has indicated it could make work safer for employees.

Bert is one of Amazon’s first autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), designed to navigate facilities independently, even when workers are on the move. Unlike other robots, Bert would not need to stay in a restricted space, which means that workers could ask him to carry items through a facility. Amazon said Bert could eventually move heavier items.

Scooter and Kermit are two other AMRs in development that haul cars. Amazon said these types of robots could take over the tasks of workers moving empty packages through the facility so they can focus on activities that require critical thinking skills and reduce physically strenuous work.

Kermit, which tracks magnetic tape to move empty containers, is more advanced in development, Amazon said, and will be rolled out to at least a dozen North American sites this year. Amazon said it plans to roll out Scooter in at least one facility this year.

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